Two islands, one love

2011-10-10 00:00

KIRSTI Kay met her South African boyfriend at a singles ball in the South Island of New Zealand.

The annual event is held in Middlemarch, a township 80 kilometres west of Dunedin with a population of about 300 mostly male farmers.

Now known as the Middlemarch Singles Ball, the Easter event aims to attract women to the area, and, like most females one talks to in New Zealand, Kay says that it was the last place she would have considered looking for a man. Rather, she went “because one of my mates was absolutely determined she was going to meet a farmer and marry him. So six of us went down to support her”.

“I was in a lot of trouble because I found someone and I wasn’t even looking. The mate who really wanted to marry someone is still single.”

Pietermaritzburg-born Kay was the only South African woman at the ball, and happened to sit at the same table as Capetonian, Dawie Eastham.

The theme of the ball: “A Wartime Romance”.

“Dawie was by himself because he is a loser,” Kay recalls. “He was in his army uniform and we just kind of hit it off from there.”

Kay and Eastham have been having a long-distance relationship since then. She lives in Auckland in the North Island, and he stays in Dunedin, in the South.

“We see each other once a month. But thanks to the World Cup he’s up here a bit more and kind of fits me in.”

At the South Africa versus Namibia Test in Auckland, Eastham acted tough, necked his beer and then jokingly ordered Kay to buy more.

He’s a South African male, domineering, sport-focused and not, she says, overtly romantic. Indeed, asked about the couple’s unusual meeting, he launched into conversation about his love of rugby.

Up to a point. Leaning forward, he looked straight into Kay’s eyes and said: “Ek het jou baie lief, liefling.”

Eastham went to New Zealand especially for the RWC. He followed the Boks at the World Cups in France in 2007, and Australia in 2003.

In the lead-up to this year’s event he has been working at the Cadbury Chocolate factory in Dunedin, which Kay says is a perk of their relationship.

“He supplies a lot of chocolate,” she grins. “But I keep telling him he should get a job at a vineyard so that he can supply us with Sauvignon Blanc instead.”

Kay works for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry — a government department that South Africans have kept busy during the Cup as they attempt to bring biltong into New Zealand.

Four years ago Kay left South Africa to be closer to her mother who decided to shift first.

She misses the country and says she is constantly faced with negative stereotypes of South Africa perpetuated by some South Africans living in New Zealand, and a news media that shows the worst side of the country.

“People often say: ‘I suppose your story is exactly the same as every other South African’ referring to the familiar news stories about South Africans picking up sticks on account of carjackings, killings and rape.

“Well, actually I have no bad stories. The only reason I left was because my immediate family did. I do find South Africans here tell all the bad stories and really run it down.”

Kay went back home two years ago, and describes what she calls, “a really positive change in the country”.

“I got chatting to a guy at the fuel pump. He was well-educated with ambition and drive. You didn’t see that before. I loved being back in South Africa. The country has this vibe about it. I really miss the people. It will always be home.”

Living in New Zealand, Kay enjoys the security and carefree lifestyle of the country. But it makes going back very difficult.

“We are so protected over here [NZ]. We don’t see the poverty that’s over in South Africa. So I really battled to see people begging for work and money when I went back home.”

Would she return to South Africa for good?

“I’m not thinking about that until I have my citizenship as a backup,” she says evenly.

And provided her long-distance relationship can be sustained, it appears that love will be the ultimate decider.

“Dawie would love to get back to Cape Town because he’s so passionate about it. So if I did go back for good, we’d probably end up down there.”

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